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Government financing is often highly targeted and restricted to specific services with stringent eligibility criteria. Private foundations, corporations and other non-governmental grantmakers should be considered when flexibility or innovation is desired. Typically, private funding organizations view their mission as promoting new ideas and supporting activities not covered by government programs.
It is always advisable to conduct research about the priorities of private funders (e.g., the types of activities they support and the geographic area covered) and to contact them before sending an unsolicited proposal. If a funder is interested in your idea, it may request a concept paper before inviting a full proposal. Typically, a concept paper is a two- to five-page summary of the key ideas in your proposal.
Often, foundations and other private funders are interested in testing new ideas or model projects that, if found effective, can be replicated in other communities. Conditions of receiving an award might include participating in an evaluation, developing publicity and replication materials, and providing assistance to other communities. The types of grants from private organizations can include funding for planning, seed money and projects.
Some private organizations will provide funding for an initial development phase, in which a program or initiative is designed but not yet implemented. A development grant, also called a planning grant, is typically time-limited, and may come with the expectation of a final product (e.g., a completed needs assessment, a program implementation plan, or an analysis of lessons learned).
Some organizations offer funding for subsequent stages of development or implementation, while others expressly preclude that option.
Seed Money Grants
A private funding organization may provide grant money to be used by recipients in leveraging other funding sources. In short, a substantial contribution to a project by at least one funder can make it easier to gain additional commitments. Sometimes a private funding organization will even offer a challenge grant that is contingent on the receipt of matching grants.
Private funders often will fund a program or project that a community organization wishes to develop, but it is rare to receive a commitment beyond five years. Instead, there is typically an understanding that the project either will become economically self-sufficient, or will gain the commitment of other funding sources in order to continue operations.